Agitating news today about an airstrike carried out by either the Syrian or Russian government. Footage purports to show victims of chemical weapons. People on the scene were at pains to describe the victims as suffering from some nerve agent. Men stripped of their clothing and fire-hosed to remove toxic agents before medical treatment were shown on BBC and France Twenty Four.
President Trump as is his want, responded with outrage at what he and the media, claimed was a Syrian violation of the rules of war. But was it?
Claims that Assad gassed his people have been made before. Assad cooperated with demands to turn over his gas stockpile. He had every reason then to avoid the real possibility of an American airstrike. The only plausible allegations of poison gas usage I am aware of lay at ISIS's door. The victims I witnessed on the tube were suffering from respiratory collapse. Toxic nerve agents like Sarin can cause that, but so can Chlorine. Anyone can make chlorine gas in their kitchen.
All the usual suspects have called for an attack on the Assad government. These are the early days of the Trump administration. It is not out of the question that various interests may be involved in this and perhaps the former gas allegations. The tactic of "Testing" a new president is well established.
Let's ask a few questions before F16's fly.
Why would the Assad regime provoke the world and the US at a time when they are winning their civil war? Why would their Russian allies consent to such a provocation? What would have been gained by a one-off gas attack that rendered no great tactical victory? Poison gas is best used to clear large areas of occupation. A pinprick gas attack on a neighborhood with no followup to capture ground is pointless, especially if the population has nowhere to run
It seems to me that the offending agent did not have to be delivered via aircraft at all. It would be quite easy to insert Chlorine canisters or a genuine nerve agent in a location that you can then provoke the Syrians to bomb.
Whatever the case, we are not about to change the course of the Syrian Civil war and shouldn't be swayed into trying.